All About Mouth Breathing: Its Symptoms And Causes

All About Mouth Breathing: Its Symptoms And Causes

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Written By: Poulami Saha | 14 May 2024

The way we breathe can impact our overall dental health and well-being.
While breathing through the nose is the preferred method, some people, especially children, fall into the habit of mouth breathing.
Do you know why?
A study estimated that 50.9 per cent of children identified as mouth-breathing had a strong mouth odour as compared to those who are nose-breathing. This blog covers the common symptoms, causes, and everything else about mouth breathing.

Why Does Our Body Prefer Nasal Breathing?

The nose is the primary pathway for air intake. The nasal cavity plays a role in:
  • Filtration: Tiny hairs (cilia) and mucus trap dust, allergens, and pathogens, preventing them from entering the lungs.
  • Humidification: The nasal passages welcome moisture to the incoming air, preventing dryness and irritation in the lungs.
  • Temperature regulation: They help regulate the temperature of inhaled air, balancing it with the body’s temperature for better lung function.
  • Nitric oxide production: The nose produces nitric oxide, a gas that relaxes blood vessels, and improves blood flow, and oxygen delivery throughout the body.

Conversely, mouth breathing bypasses these pros of nasal breathing, leading to dental health issues.

Major Causes of Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing is a breathing pattern in which the individual inhales and exhales air mostly through the mouth rather than the nose. Here are the factors that can contribute to mouth breathing, categorised into anatomical and habitual causes:

Anatomical Causes
  • Tonsils (in the back of your throat) or adenoids larger in size: These lymphatic tissues can obstruct the airway, making nasal breathing difficult.
  • Deviated septum: A misaligned septum in the nose can block one or both nasal passages.
  • Facial structure: Some facial features, like a recessed chin or narrow jaw, can limit nasal airflow.
  • Nasal polyps: Soft, noncancerous growths in the nasal cavity can restrict breathing.
  • Allergies: Chronic allergies can cause congestion and inflammation, making breathing through the nose difficult.

Habitual Causes
  • Childhood habits: Continuous thumb sucking or pacifier use can lead to the development of a mouth-breathing habit.
  • Sleep apnea: This sleep disorder disturbs breathing patterns, often leading to mouth breathing during sleep.
  • Stress and anxiety: Rapid breathing due to stress can cause a shift to mouth breathing.

But…How to Know If You’re REALLY Mouth Breathing?

Aka, the symptoms of mouth breathing. Most often mouth breathing symptoms go unnoticed because you are unconsciously breathing during sleep or subconsciously doing it in a certain environment. Here the strong signs to look for if you’re mouth breathing:
  • Dry mouth and throat:Bypassing the nasal cavity’s humidification function leads to dryness. It is said that if you keep your mouth open for a longer period, your saliva starts to evaporate, which as a result keeps your mouth and even your throat dryer than usual.
  • More often colds and infections: The slow-down process of filtering the air exposes the lungs to irritants and pathogens.
  • Morning headaches: Dehydration from dry mouth can contribute to headaches upon waking from the word go.
  • Bad breath: There are multiple causes of bad breath. Dryness in the mouth can promote bacterial growth, leading to bad breath.
  • Snoring: Mouth breathing can disturb your sleep cycle, causing irresistible snoring and restlessness.
  • Facial deformities: In children, prolonged mouth breathing can affect facial development, leading to a long, narrow face. On the flip side, breathing through the nose helps to stimulate maxillary bones, which support the upper jaw, creating more room for the teeth and improving overall facial harmony.
  • Dental problems: Mouth dryness can give a higher probability of causing tooth decay and gum disease.

What are the Potential Consequences of Mouth Breathing?

Unattended mouth breathing can have far-reaching consequences for your health:
  • 1. Increased susceptibility to infections:The ‘compromised’ filtering function of the nose exposes the lungs to pathogens coming from the external environment.
  • 2. Malocclusion: Those who breathe through the mouth consistently can later on contribute to malocclusion, which is overall the misalignment of the teeth and jaws. What happens in the process normally is when the tongue’s position is at rest against the surface of the mouth, exerting gentle forces that help shape the dental arches and promote proper alignment. When you’re a mouth breather, this process gets spread out informally giving birth to crowded or crooked teeth.
  • 3. Sleep apnea risk: Sleep apnea is caused by the muscles in your mouth, tongue, and throat relaxing too much when you fall asleep, blocking your airway. Mouth breathing can worsen sleep apnea or even support its initial development.
  • 4. Cognitive fallout: Some studies suggest an interesting link between mouth breathing and reduced oxygen supply to the brain, potentially impacting cognitive function in children.
  • 5. Cardiovascular issues:Chronic mouth breathing might be linked to irregularities in heart function.

What’s the Final Take?

If you suspect yourself or someone you know might be a mouth breather, these are the steps to take to keep your mouth breathing under control. Note that every small step you take matters in the journey of you as a better breather.
  • Consult a doctor/dentist: An in-depth evaluation can identify underlying anatomical causes and recommend appropriate treatment, such as medication, allergy management, or any dental surgery depending on several factors or orthodontic treatments like Invisalign or metal braces.
  • Nasal decongestants: Over-the-counter nasal sprays or saline rinses can help relieve unnecessary congestion and promote better flow of air through nose holes.
  • Myofascial therapy: This therapy can address muscle imbalances that contribute to mouth breathing.
  • Lifestyle changes: Coping up with day-to-day stress, practising good sleep hygiene, and staying hydrated can all support nasal breathing.
  • Dental appliances: Certain oral hygiene appliances can make airflow smoother process and mitigate mouth breathing during sleep.
  • Nasal strips: These adhesive strips put on the bridge of the nose can help open nasal passages for easier breathing.
If you’re one of those who are facing the consistent effects of dental health due to mouth breathing, APEX Dental Clinic in Dubai is just one quick appointment away.